Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) prohibits discrimination against individuals based on their national origin or citizenship status, and requires employers to establish the work eligibility of each prospective employee in order to avoid hiring illegal aliens. The IRCA applies to employers with 4 or more employees, to employees who are citizens or nationals of the United States, and aliens who are lawfully admitted for permanent residence, granted temporary residence status, admitted as refugees, or granted asylum. Aliens lawfully residing in the United States are not covered.

Under the IRCA, it is illegal to refuse to hire, recruit, or refer for a fee any individual because of that individual’s national origin or citizenship status. Employers may discriminate, however, in the following circumstances:

  • Preferring a U.S. citizen over an alien if both are equally qualified
  • If discrimination based on citizenship is required by law or if it is essential to do business with an agency of the government
  • Discriminating against individuals who do not produce the required documentation

Title VII national origin claims preempt any claim under the IRCA.